AROUND 150 lawyers and law students reached the foot of historic Mendiola Bridge around 2:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon in defiance of a government no permit-no rally policy that designates the area a no-rally zone.
The protesters, led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), were joined by former vice president Teofisto Guingona as they assembled near the University of the East on Recto Avenue before kicking off their march around 2 p.m.
“I came here to support the lawyers,” said Guingona, a staunch critic of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The lawyers had vowed to hold a peaceful mass action at Mendiola, with or without a permit, to assert their right to freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble.
IBP president Jose Anselmo Cadiz said their protest is also to condemn the administration’s attempt to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative, which critics assert is illegal.
Lawyer Neri Colmenares of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) also said they were protesting to “uphold civil liberties and condemn political killings.”
Cadiz said the permit granted by Manila City Hall was only for Plaza Miranda.
But he said there was “no basis for not issuing a permit for Mendiola.”
In Malacañang, Solicitor General Eduardo Antonio Nachura advised his fellow lawyers to bring their protest to a venue allowed by law.
“Whatever message it is they want to convey, they can do it without using Mendiola,” Nachura told reporters. “The purpose will be achieved in the same manner.”
Nachura said Mendiola has been a no-rally area for a long time, thus there was no “real question on whether or not it was fair not to give a permit for a rally.”